Australia's Most Dangerous Jobs

By Victoria Simpson on July 15 2020 in Society

Image credit: Gino Santa Maria/Shutterstock.com
Image credit: Gino Santa Maria/Shutterstock.com
  • In 2019 a total of 171 workers died from an injury sustained at work in Australia, with the most deaths in sectors like forestry and construction.
  • The US has a relatively high workplace fatality rate compared to Australia, with 3.5 people in every 100,000 dying at work.
  • Safe Work Australia is a government organization that works to provide support and influence policies in relation to worker's safety.

Like any country, Australia has people working in jobs that could be stressful on your mind, but generally harmless for your body. Office jobs and desk jobs generally fit the bill. There are also jobs that can put your life in danger. At the time of this writing in July 2020, there have been 91 Australians killed at work during 2020. In 2019 a total of 171 workers died from an injury sustained at work in the country. This adds up to someone dying at work just about every two days down under.  

Some of the most dangerous jobs can be found in forestry, fishing and agriculture in Australia, and the physically safest work is found in the financial and insurance industries. An overwhelming majority (93%) of people who die at work in Australia are male. 

Here is a deeper look at seven of the most dangerous jobs in Australia, and what makes them to be so. 

Labour And Other Hands-On Jobs

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Image credit: Andre Marcelo Santa Maria/Shutterstock.com

According to the Australian Men’s Health Forum, in 2017 the most common causes of workplaces deaths in Australia were vehicle collisions, being hit by a moving object, falling from high heights, and being hit by a falling object. These accidents tended to happen most often for those working in labour jobs. Workers in the Northern Territory had the highest rate of death at work by far and in 2017 were 13 times more likely to die at work than were workers in other territories. 

Next in line was workers in Queensland, followed by workers in South Australia, New South Wales, and then Western Australia. 

In 2018, Christopher Cassiniti died at 18-years old while working on a construction site in the Sydney suburb of Macquarie Park. He fell from scaffolding that collapsed beneath him. The tragic death marked the beginning of a spotlight on construction safety that revealed over 100 safety violations related to scaffolding only, across New South Wales. 

A simple Google search shows many other incidents of people dying on the job in Australia’s labour sector. In July 2020, a man was crushed to death by a falling metal beam. He died on the scene. People have died in mining accidents recently, at quarries, and in industrial accidents. Working in Australia can be dangerous. 

Australia’s famous forest fires are something else that claim workers every year. When trees fall, the result can be fatal. In the country's forest fires of 2019-2020, 9 firefighters died fighting the blazes to date. 

Transport, Postal And Warehousing

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Those working as drivers and on the railroads also have a tough, potentially fatal job to face each day. Shockingly, a report put out in 2020 by the National Transport Insurance company in Australia found that the number of people who had died in a truck driving accident doubled in 2019, when compared with any other year in the past decade. Drivers being distracted, presumably by cellphones and other devices, as well as fatigued were cited as major reasons so many drivers are dying. Veteran truck drivers say that more adequate rest facilities are needed throughout the country to help bring fatalities down. Increased driver training and education would also help, some say. 

When it comes to fatalities in warehouses, workers tend to die in forklift accidents. Workers can also be fatally injured if there is faulty wiring, hazardous materials, holes in the walls or floors, and warehouse fires. 

Agriculture

Those of us who do not farm may often think of idyllic pastures with horses, cows, and ducks spending their merry days in sunshine when we think of life on the farm. Many people die working as farmers, however. In 2016, 63 people died in accidents on farms in Australia. Some of these were workers, and sometimes even worker’s children died as bystanders in tragic events. Reports indicate that some of these deaths are caused by people not adhering to safe practices like wearing seat belts, and driving at the speed limit on roads. Sometimes, farmers are intoxicated and too tired to do their job, which can also result in a deadly accident. 

Other Incidents

It is somewhat surprising to find community and personal service workers on the list of those who suffer from the most fatalities at work in Australia. When you take a look at some of the job titles, it becomes clearer how fatalities may occur. Community workers in Australia may be crisis intervention workers, juvenile justice officers, and alcohol and drug officers, among other titles. These jobs could be placing workers in close situations with people who are mentally imbalanced and potentially dangerous. This happened in 2019 when a New South Wales Health case worker visited a client for a routine mental health check. He was stabbed to death by his client who suffered from serious mental health issues. 

What Is Being Done

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The fact that Australia is keeping statistics on how many people die at work is a good step. Canada, for example, does not have a national database of on-the-job fatality rates. Keeping track of what happens is beneficial for workers and labor inspectors. Data helps people to identify where help is needed most. 

In Australia, there exist organizations that are attempting to improve the lives of workers who face dangerous conditions each day on the job. These conditions are impacting workers. Construction workers in Australia have a much higher rate of suicide compared with workers in other jobs. Those seeking support and help can find it through organizations such as MATES In Construction, IncoLink, HALT, the OzHelp Foundation, and the OzHelp Tasmania Foundation. 

Safe Work Australia is an Australian government organization that was established in 2008. People at this organization work to develop policies related to compensating workers who are hurt on the job. This group also develops national policy related to Workplace Health and Safety (WHS). Safe Work Australia also develops national strategies, conduct research, collects and analyzes data related to workplace safety. This organization does not regulate WHS laws, but they can suggest changes. By keeping track of how many workers are injured and killed at work, moving forward, hopefully more deaths can be prevented.  

Australia's Most Dangerous Jobs

RankType of occupationNumber of fatalities by occupation in Australia in 2017
1Laborer56
2Road or rail driver44
3Farmer or farm manager21
4Technician or trades worker17
5Design, engineering, science or transport professional14
6Community and personal service workers14
7Machine operator7

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